This is an excellent question, and I think it's something all writers - newbie and seasoned alike - can suffer from. You get a spark of an idea - a premise, a character name, a perfect opening line - and feel invigorated. It's your best idea yet! How much longer until the bell rings, because I have to get out of class and write this story now?!
You write a couple pages or chapters and then your inspiration slowly dries up. Whether it's because the idea that seemed crystal clear in your head is a bit murkier on paper or because you mentioned the idea to your sister and she wrinkled her nose, you begin to distance yourself from the project. Until finally, when the next big idea hits, you shove aside your original manuscript in order to pursue this new story.
While there's tremendous value in writing a novel from beginning to end, and while I think you'll grow more as a writer from writing one complete novel than writing a dozen first chapters, there's certainly a time and place to set projects aside.
When I do it it's because:
- I realize my idea isn't big enough to sustain a novel.
- I'm asked to work on another project (by my agent or editor or something)
When it's the first, when I've realized my idea isn't big enough yet, often all I need is time to "find" the rest of the story. Sometimes all that takes is a brainstorming session with my critique partner. Other times I need weeks or months of "composting." Of mulling over the idea while I'm doing those otherwise brainless activities like washing dishes or showering. (I swear, most my good ideas come when I'm doing one of those two activities.)
So, as challenging as this can be, sometimes you just need more time.
But it's certainly not a bad idea to take a look at your list of works-in-progress and see if you can do some combining. This is an exercise I shared months ago in the Go Teen Writers Newsletter. It's adapted from Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. (He has you draw lines, but I like the index cards.)
The original intent is to help you develop unexpected connections in a manuscript, but I think it could be great fun to try it on a couple manuscripts and see what you come up with.
First you get some index cards. Write down 10ish characters from your novel (or a couple from each of your novels if you're hoping to combine some stories.) Also, write down 10ish settings and 10ish plot layers or events from your book(s). You're writing one per card, so one card might read, "Jamie," and another, "the diner," and another, "Rose's 16th birthday party."
Mix them all up, then lay them writing-side-down on the floor/desk/counter, as if you're playing a memory game.
Then pick up two or three cards.
They will likely have very little or possibly nothing to do with each other, but ask yourself if there's a way to connect these things. Can you connect Jamie's old boyfriend to Rose's party somehow? Maybe she meets someone who once dated him. Or maybe when she's there, she finds out he's getting married...
You can keep picking up cards as long as you want. A lot of your ideas will be wacky and too "out there" but whenever I do this exercise, I always walk away with a handful of plot twists I can implement. I think it'd be really fun to give it a whirl with multiple manuscripts.
Hope this helps!
Here are some additional posts you might find helpful:
Gathering Your Ideas
Making Sure Your Idea is Big Enough
As always, if you have writing questions, feel free to email me. Have a great weekend, everyone!